In broad terms, there are five Mafia groups, defined mainly by the regions they operate in or the regions they originated in. All five groups have their hands in criminal operations that span the globe and have set up operatives in many different nations. The Sicilian Mafia originated on the island of Sicily. The Camorra Mafia began in Naples, and the Calabrian Mafia originated in Italy's Calabrian region. The Sacra Corona Unita is a more recent group based in the Puglia region of Italy. Finally, La Cosa Nostra is the American Mafia, although this group can trace its history back to Sicilian families as well as some of the other Italian groups.


The power of the Naples mafia was recently attested to when in 2004 police were literally surrounded and made hostage by a whole neighbourhood when they tried to capture a leader of the Naples Mafia. The Naples Mafia in Italy is known as the Camorra. The origins of the Naples Mafia are believed to date back to the 19th century when it was formed as a prison gang. Over the years inmates were released and began to operate their criminal enterprises in and around Naples. Today there are believed to be about 7000 members of the Naples Mafia who operate in about 100 small families. The criminal activities for which the Naples Mafia is most known are cigarette and drug smuggling as well as counterfeiting.

The Italian Mafia is perhaps best known for its traditional criminal activities such as extortion and running protection rackets. Today’s Mafia in Italy, however, has become much more sophisticated and has diversified its portfolio of criminal activities. Drug dealing, smuggling, kidnap, people trafficking, prostitution rackets, and the bribery of judges and politicians in Italy are all things that the Mafia deals with. In recent years there have been reports of the younger generation of Mafia leaders in Italy trying to diversify into white collar crime to make more money. Often, the profits of criminal activities carried out by the Italian mafia are re invested in legitimate business enterprises. The Mafia in Italy constitutes a formidable economic force which accounts for approximately 10% of Italy’s GDP. Annual turnover of the Italian Mafia is estimated at around 10 billion Euros.



THE global financial crisis has been a blessing for organized crime. A series of recent scandals have exposed the connection between some of the biggest global banks and the seamy underworld of mobsters, smugglers, drug traffickers and arms dealers. American banks have profited from money laundering by Latin American drug cartels, while the European debt crisis has strengthened the grip of the loan sharks and speculators who control the vast underground economies in countries like Spain and Greece. 

Mutually beneficial relationships between bankers and gangsters aren’t new, but what’s remarkable is their reach at the highest levels of global finance. In 2010, Wachovia admitted that it had essentially helped finance the murderous drug war in Mexico by failing to identify and stop illicit transactions. The bank, which was acquired by Wells Fargo during the financial crisis, agreed to pay $160 million in fines and penalties for tolerating the laundering, which occurred between 2004 and 2007. 

Last month, Senate investigators found that HSBC had for a decade improperly facilitated transactions by Mexican drug traffickers, Saudi financiers with ties to Al Qaeda and Iranian bankers trying to circumvent United States sanctions. The bank set aside $700 million to cover fines, settlements and other expenses related to the inquiry, and its chief of compliance resigned.